Consider a political outsider who is tapping into voter anger, delivering a populist message and drawing raucous thousands to rallies. He wants the hedge fund managers to pay more taxes and argues that there should be healthcare for everyone. Sound familiar?
“You’re describing Donald Trump,” the Republican candidate confidently said during MSNBC’s exclusive town hall Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina. Except "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski had her mind on someone else.
"Actually, I was describing Bernie Sanders," said Brzezinski, who moderated the event along with Joe Scarborough. Her exchange with Trump perfectly encapsulates just how unusual 2016 is: The GOP front-runner actually has quite a lot in common with a leading candidate from the opposing party.
“There’s one thing we’re very similar in: He knows our country is being ripped off big league — big league — on trade,” Trump said, before firing off a scathing condemnation of the candidate he's previously called a "maniac."
“The problem is he can’t do anything about it," Trump said, arguing that Sanders "doesn’t understand what’s happening” with the nation in regards to trade, and that he felt confident he could defeat Sanders in a general election. Still, Trump added, he’d rather run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “just because I’d love to beat Hillary.”
In a wide-ranging, hour-long town hall featuring questions from South Carolina voters, Trump tackled everything from his political rivals to his admiration for Ronald Reagan to empowering African-Americans as president.
Here are a few of the other questions he answered.
If you’re elected, how will you relate to the African-American community?
“We have right now an African-American president, and if you look at African-American unemployment it’s 58 percent, 59 percent, probably even higher than that,” Trump said. The black youth unemployment rate is less than half that, according to government data, but Trump has long argued that the numbers are wrong and that unemployment nationally is actually 42 percent.
"You see nothing but problems. Barack Obama has done nothing, absolutely nothing in my opinion, economically, for African-Americans, especially youth," Trump continued. "We're going to bring back our jobs, we're bringing them back from China, we're bringing them back from all over Asia. We're going to bring them back from Mexico."
How do you respond to the economists who say your policies will add trillions to the national debt?
“They’re wrong,” Trump said. “My policies are gonna reduce taxes, okay? And the taxes are going to bring jobs back, and we’re gonna bring jobs back into the country big league, and we’re going to have a dynamic economy again.”
What specific steps would you take to establish an agreement between Israel and Palestine?
“I will give it one hell of a shot,” Trump said. “It’s possible it’s not makeable, because don’t forget it has to last — it’s wonderful to make it and it doesn’t work, but it has to last. To make lasting peace there? Probably the toughest deal of all but I’m going to give it a shot.”